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Radiator Flush: What is it and Why is it Important?

How To Know If The Radiator Is Cracked

The radiator fluid, also known as coolant or antifreeze, is crucial in making sure that the engine is running within its normal operating temperature range. It transfers heat and helps prevent engine problems. However, just like any other fluids in the car, it gets contaminated, accumulating dirt and other debris over time. When this happens, it can cause damage to your radiator since it can allow corrosion to develop and other debris build ups. To prevent this from happening, a radiator flush is necessary. Simply draining the old radiator fluid won’t be enough since it might leave some contaminants and old fluid behind. A full radiator flush will be needed so all of the old, contaminated fluid will be forcibly removed to make room for a fresh, new radiator fluid.

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Radiator Flush:  Are Radiator Flushes Necessary?

A radiator should be functioning properly to keep your car’s engine from overheating. There is a radiator fluid that absorbs heat from the engine which will be transported through the radiator where the fluid will be cooled before it will be circulated again and start a new cycle of heat absorption through the engine and back to the radiator.

The coolant plays a crucial role in this process. In fact, the cooling system of a car relies on it. Without it, your engine will run in dangerously high-level temperatures which can result in severe damage to your engine and its components such as the head gasket, water pump, connector rods, and cylinder and piston timing.

Since the radiator fluid plays a crucial role in keeping your engine cool, it needs to be free from dirt and other contaminants to be able to function properly and efficiently. It helps prevent corrosion of engine components and helps improve the performance of your engine. But the radiator fluid will not be clean all the time. Over time, it will accumulate dirt and other contaminants from around the engine which can cause corrosion, leaks, and other problems that can be too expensive to repair.

It is for this reason why a radiator flush is necessary. The old, contaminated radiator fluid should be removed to make room for a new one. This is done to restore the protective abilities of the radiator fluid needed for a safe and properly working cooling system. Bear in mind that a radiator flush should be done and not just simply draining the old fluid and pouring in a new one. If you do this, you won’t be able to get rid of all the contaminants and old fluid. Plus, when you add new coolant to the radiator in this state, it will just mix with the remaining old fluid which makes it less effective.

Performing a radiator flush involves flushing several gallons of radiator cleaner and water through the cooling system of your car. This will get rid of the old radiator fluid, rust, gunk and other contaminants that have naturally built up in your cooling system. Skipping this important process can cause some blockage and can eventually cause your engine to overheat. A full radiator flush is needed since it gets all the old radiator fluid out and a fresh, new fluid will be added into your cooling system.

The benefits you can get from a full radiator flush include:

  • Removing corrosions and scale deposits that have built up over time. It is vital that rust and the other contaminants will be removed since they can lead to engine overheating which can damage the entire cooling system of your car.


  • Removing the old, contaminated fluid completely means you will give room for a new one which has additives and other protective capabilities that lubricate and help extend the life of your cooling system’s components such as the water pump. It also helps prevent rust, dirt, and other deposits from building up. It also prevents foaming which helps your cooling system to function properly and efficiently.


  • When you take your car to an auto service shop for a radiator flush, your car will most likely get an inspection of your entire cooling system. This includes inspection of your radiator, thermostat, and all the belts and hoses. This is rather beneficial since you will be able to know if there is any part in your cooling system that needs attention. Correcting it before it becomes an issue can prevent any other potential problems.


  • A radiator flush also prevents your old radiator fluid from being acidic. When your old fluid becomes acidic, it tends to break down which can result in a damaged bearing in your water pump. It can also cause damage to your rubber hoses as well as all the other metal components of your engine.



Radiator Flush: How Do You Know If You Need a Radiator Flush?

A radiator flush is one of the necessary car maintenance you should perform on a regular basis. You can check your owner’s manual for the recommended fluid flush interval set by your car manufacturer. A radiator fluid is usually done every 30,000 miles or 3 years to 5 years, whichever comes first. However, if your car manufacturer has set a specific interval, you should follow their recommended interval. But it could also happen that your radiator fluid becomes bad or contaminated before it is due for a radiator flush because of some problems.

So, how do you know if you need a radiator flush? You will know if your system is due for a radiator flush when you experience any of these following problems.


  • Engine overheating


Engine overheating is one of the most common signs that your car is due for a radiator flush. You may notice your temperature gauge reads much hotter than usual and it is a clear indication that there is something wrong with your cooling system.

This can happen since the cooling system of your car relies on the quality of the radiator fluid for it to function properly and efficiently. The fluid is responsible for removing excess heat from the engine and transports through the radiator to be cooled so the engine can run smoothly within its normal operating temperature range.


  • Sweet smell coming from your car’s hood


The radiator fluid has ethylene glycol that is known to have a sweet smell. If you notice a sweet smell coming from your car’s hood, it can be an indication that your car burns through coolant. It might smell sweet or nice, but it is something serious and you need to have your car checked and scheduled for a radiator flush right away. You may also experience this problem if your engine overheats quickly.


  • Grinding or knocking sounds


When you hear grinding or knocking sounds, it can be a sign that your car is due for a radiator flush. This can happen when the radiator fluid is flowing back into the heater. If you hear any unusual noises, it usually means that there is something wrong with the system. It is better to have your car checked to determine what caused it.


  • Murky and cloudy radiator fluid


When you check your radiator fluid and you notice that the fluid is rather murky, thick, or cloudy, then it is an indication that it needs a radiator flush. A healthy fluid should have a bright green color for ethylene glycol or orange for dexcool. If it has become dirty and contaminated, its color will become darker, usually with a shade of brown. When this happens, it can no longer protect your engine and its components.



Radiator Flush: Can I Flush My Radiator Myself?

Now you know why a radiator flush is important. If you take your car to an auto service shop to have a radiator flush, it will usually cost you around $100 to $200. But, if you want to do the radiator flush yourself, you can do so since the process is relatively quick and simple. You just need to follow these simple steps.


  • Allow your engine to cool down. Do not perform a radiator flush if your engine is still hot. Make sure that it has cooled down, maybe an hour or so after driving your car.


  • Put on some protective gears such as rubber gloves and safety glasses. You need to protect your hands and eyes from splashing fluids.


  • Use a jack to lift up the front side of your car. This is done so you can place a drain pan under your radiator. It is better to use jack stands to lift your car up to make it more secure. Make sure that you apply the parking brakes to prevent your car from moving while you are working on it.


  • Open your car’s hood and locate your radiator. It usually has a flat, finned metal spot near the front. Search for a round cap which leads to your radiator. You might read the words “radiator coolant” or something like it.


  • Once you found it, put a large pan or bucket under the radiator. The pan should be able to hold about two gallons of fluid. It will be better if the pan or bucket has a built-in spout so you can easily pour the old fluid into another container. If not, you can prepare a funnel instead.


  • Next thing you can do is to inspect your radiator. Look for any signs of damage on it and its tubes or hoses. If you notice some visible damage, cracks, or rust, you will need to replace them with new ones. If your radiator is dirty, you need to clean its outside surface using a nylon brush and water with soap.


  • Crawl under your car and look for a plug or valve in the radiator’s corner. It is a small opening found at the very bottom of the tank. Move your drain pan directly under it and slowly open the valve. You need to catch all the fluid and not let it drop onto the road since it can be harmful to the environment.


  • Wait until all the fluid is completely drained before you put back or seal the plug or valve. Once the radiator fluid has stopped coming out, seal the valve close again. Pour the collected old fluid into old plastic bags and label them. You need to dispose of the fluid properly.


  • Remove the radiator cap and pour the radiator cleaner and distilled water into the radiator reservoir until full. Use a funnel to do this to make sure that all the fluid will get inside. Pour the cleaner first then add one gallon of distilled water.


  • Put the radiator cap back and start your car. Allow it to run for about 10 to 15 minutes.


  • Turn off the car and open the valve again. You can then drain all the cleaner and distilled water along with all the dirt and contaminants from inside the radiator.


  • Tighten and close the plug or valve again and slide the full drain pan out.


  • You are now ready to pour in a new coolant. You need to consult your owner’s manual on how much fluid you should pour in your radiator.


  • Open the radiator cap again and place the funnel and pour a 50/50 blend of concentrated coolant and distilled water in your radiator. You can also use a premixed coolant.


  • Then inspect the overflow tank and when needed, add radiator fluid until the level reaches the service line.


  • Start your car again and run it for a few minutes. Check for any signs of leaks. If everything is fine, then it means that you have successfully performed a radiator flush.


  • Turn off your car and add a bit more coolant and water until it starts to become visible in the bottom of the overflow tank.


  • Then you need to open the overflow tank cap and top it off too with a bit more coolant and distilled water and stop a few inches below the service line.

A radiator flush is necessary to make sure that your cooling system continues to function properly and efficiently. If you skip this needed maintenance, you will most likely have corrosion, dirt, and other contaminants continue building up in your cooling system which will eventually cause leaks, damage to the gaskets and other components, and engine overheating.

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